Bad weather always looks worse through a window.
During my 5k walk benefitting two local food shelves on Thanksgiving morning, I looked up and let the fat snowflakes hit my face. It was a soft snow with little breeze, and in an instant I felt thankful.
I was feeling my age upon waking that morning. The bones creaked and the muscles were rigid. I poked my head out of bed a few times before I left, testing the layers I’d chosen, finally settling on the long-sleeve cotton shirt we received with our race packets, my food bank hoodie, and a pair of grey sweatpants. I laced up my old-lady white sneakers, and loaded the shelf-stable groceries in the back of my son’s vehicle.
This year marks our second annual Thanksgiving walk/run for hunger. Last year the thermometer read a daunting one degree Fahrenheit. I learned a few things about the 5k/10k races, specifically involving winter weather. As a runner’s sweat drips down his or her back, stalactites form on the seat of the pants, forming — for lack of a better term — butt-cicles. It’s true. My son’s facial hair froze into a grampa-white beard and mixed with the evidence of his mile-5 nosebleed. He was terrifying despite the smile on his face. Although these are not the reasons I don’t run, they definitely justify my rationale.
Today was about thirty degrees warmer than last year, but the snow lent a sense of adventure. About 15 minutes after we saw my son off on his 10k run, the rest of us lined up for the 5k. Once the runners had all passed, the dog-walkers, strollers, and I settled into a brisk, yet slower, pace. My joints had stiffened standing in the cold, and they ached as I began. I snapped a few pictures, found some good classic rock on Pandora, and firmly secured my earbuds.
Somewhere in the middle, I looked up into the swirling white, and I felt thankful. And I thought about that word — Thanksgiving. Giving thanks. Certainly I am thankful to the people who organized the race, and to the food shelves who will put the proceeds to good use, and to my body for being able to carry me a whopping three miles on a frosty morn, and to my employer who gives me Thanksgiving off — even thankful to the earth for the crisp air and swirling snow.
But there is more to it than thanks. There’s giving. In the end it doesn’t matter who or how you thank. Whether you offer up prayer, or thank the cook, or tip the waitress. Thanking is polite. Giving takes more. Here, as I looked before and behind me, were all these people who took time away from their kitchen, or got up early, or scheduled Thanksgiving dinner just an hour later, so that they could give of themselves.
And after all the participants have gone home, or finished their Bloody Marys (just sayin’), there are people who are cleaning and clearing the route of signage or trash, sorting and storing the collected food, packing the race gear away, and accounting for expenses and proceeds.
So while I’m thankful to all the people who provided a way for me to give last Thursday, I’d like to change my definition of Thanksgiving from a day to give thanks, to a day to be thankful for the opportunity to give. I don’t give as much or as often as I could. But while my body is able, to participate in this annual event seems like a perfectly splendid way kick off this season of giving.
It occurs to me that those living closer to the equator may not have the luxury of appraising neighbors on methods of snow removal. By closer I mean closer than one of the northern-most United States of America. Mention you are from Minnesota, and people immediately conjure images of wolf-like dogs racing across an open tundra, a parka-clad rider mushing them on in search of the next meal of blubber.
Yeah, it’s something like that. Only I’m in my Dodge Neon, the dog has positioned herself on the center console looking out over the dashboard, and I’m on my way to the supermarket. Sure it’s cold, and there’s snow on the roads. It’s Minnesota. It’s winter. Get over it. The minute a flake falls from the sky, everyone wants to know what the roads are like. My answer? “Eh . . it’s winter.”
And with the season comes the practiced art of snow removal. Minnesotans have been removing snow for centuries. Technically, the snow is not removed. You can’t remove snow unless you bring it inside, melt it and flush it down the drain. No, we move it. From here to there. Sometimes, we have so much snow to move that we scoop it up in front loaders, empty it into dump trucks and haul it away. I’m not sure where they go with it, but if it were me I’d haul it to California.
While snow in the city comes with parking bans, tow trucks and impound fees, in the suburbs it’s all about what your neighbor is doing. Why should winter be different than any other season? As soon as the lawn is covered, and they can no longer judge the green of your grass, they will begin to analyze the white of your driveway.
Technically speaking, if one does not remove the snow from one’s driveway, the snow will eventually remove itself. However, if your intention is to leave the snow until it melts in the spring, after driving over it and the fluctuations in temperature, you’re going to end up axle-deep in frozen ruts going nowhere fast. I think all Minnesotans can agree that some amount of snow movement is necessary.
You have several options, offering various stages of effort and cost. You can buy a shovel or hire a kid to shovel you out. You can buy a snowblower, or hope a neighbor brings one over. Some people put a plow on the front of their truck and not only plow out their place, but make money plowing out others. My dad used to take out his four-wheel drive with the plow on the front and drive around looking for little old ladies shoveling their own driveway or families stuck in the ditch. His pay was the smile on their face.
Once suburbanites have chosen our option of snow removal, we are obligated to assess our neighbors’ methods and motivation. It is safe to say that a homeowner can be accurately labeled by the driveway he keeps.
- The Gambler: This guy checks the forecast first. He may leave up to three inches lay if he thinks it will melt by 2 p.m. tomorrow. If the stuff is still falling, he gauges the weight per shovelful, duration of snowfall, and rate of accumulation before making his plan of attack.
- The Sloth: This one owns a snowblower, but will wait to see if it melts first. He is often seen three days later carelessly snow-blowing ice chunks toward windows and small children.
- The OCD: He is out there with his shovel as soon as a dusting appears. Unfortunately, as soon as he finishes the bottom of the driveway, the top is already accumulating snow again, and he can’t possibly go inside until the whole thing is clear. You might want to bring over a cup of hot chocolate or a small meal.
- The Over-Acheiver: You can spot this star student by the way he not only shovels his sidewalk and driveway, but his effort extends to parts of the yard, and even into the street. Where other houses’ curbs slope naturally to the street, his is cut at a 90-degree angle exactly at curb depth.
- The Good Samaritan: This guy can often be spotted down the street, snow-blowing out every plow drift along the way. The plow drift, as Northerners know, is what the city plow deposits at the end of your driveway after you have meticulously cleared it out. The Good Samaritan wears a frost-encrusted smile accompanied by a frozen-snot icicle mustache.
- The Homeschooler: You can spot this one by the number of shovels lined up in various sizes outside the door. While the shovels are in use, please slow to 15 mph as children will be present.
Me? I’m inside huddled next to the space heater. The chimneys across the street are emitting a steady flow of horizontal steam, communicating a cold, steady wind against a sunny blue sky. I can hear the rhythmic scrape of Bubba’s shovel, his black toque bobbing occasionally above the window sash. He finally invested in a snowblower this year. And as Murphy’s Law dictates, I think we can forecast a fairly light year for the stuff, rarely dropping enough to start it up.
Maybe that makes me the smart homeowner.
Peace . . .
In January I job-shadowed a co-worker in another department. It was mostly an informational journey, finding out more about what they do in that corner of the organization. I hadn’t meant to fall in love. As those who stray are often overheard saying, it just happened.
When the job opening posted, I submitted my résumé, with a carefully crafted cover letter, to the HR department. Then I waited.
The first two interviews were lined up over three weeks later. A Friday. They would be held early, before the workday surrendered to the weekend. At the time the appointment was set, no one expected a snow storm.
Thursday the flakes fell all day. By lunch the back roads were risky. The HR department called. No one who didn’t have to was coming in the next day, much less early. My first appointment was rescheduled for the afternoon. Soon I was messaged by the hiring manager. Could I reschedule? Yes, of course . . . doesn’t my résumé say that one of my strengths is flexibility? Given the choice, I chose Friday afternoon over Monday. Weekends are meant to relax, not fibrillate.
It was all worked out. I would dress for the interview in the morning, wearing snow boots and carrying my dress shoes in a bag. Returning home on my break as usual, I’d eat a light and healthy lunch, freshen up, and arrive back at work looking crisp and eager.
That evening, I gunned it up the drive to keep from lodging halfway. Bubba met me at the back door. He had gunned his car too, but his power steering pump whined. Something gave and he lost the ease of his wheel. He made it in, but the car was crippled. He would have to take mine in the morning.
Okay! So just another change of plans, right? Deep breath and forge ahead.
Friday morning I dressed in my professional best. My makeup and hair in place, nails groomed, brows plucked, Bubba warmed the car. A trip home to freshen up midday would be impossible. It was important I felt confident and unruffled before I left in the morning.
The last thing I did before I went out the back door was to grab my purse in the front room. Looking out the window, I saw the young woman across the street spinning her wheels. The plows that cleared the streets overnight left a dense berm of snow at the bottom of each driveway. My young neighbor made the poor choice to try and run her vehicle over the drift.
Now, it occurred to me that if we backed out just right, we could keep our car in reverse and back down the hill until we found a clear area to turn around. However, it would require us to drive, albeit backwards, right by her while she was stuck in the snow.
“Shoot!” I exclaimed. Okay, I didn’t say shoot, but you get the idea. I was starting to lose my cool.
I watched her tires spin a few more times without any encouragement from the car. There was nothing to do except the right thing. I marched past Bubba in my boots, well-coiffed hair, and lipstick. I trod through the snow to the garage. Plucking the lightest shovel off the wall, I strutted past the woman now on her phone in the street. I began to excavate the incapacitated car at a feverish rate.
Before long, Bubba and a passing motorist had joined my endeavor. The car was soon dislodged, many thanks were exchanged and we headed back to our own warm automobile.
Sweaty, wet, rumpled, my meltdown arrived violently. Deep breaths turned into hyperventilation as I tried to keep tears from rinsing away my mascara.
By the time Bubba dropped me off at work, I had regained some small amount of composure. The place was a ghost town. The desks of my two office mates sat empty for the next hour. The only callers were canceling orders. The call from HR shouldn’t have surprised me.
Neither interview would take place that day. A small voice in my head mocked my meltdown from earlier. Next week would be a better time for interviews. Surely everything that could go wrong already had.
Peace . . .
I wish this was a better photo, but the subject fit the theme so well, I couldn’t resist using it. While taking a picture of the sun lighting up the pretty little seeds hanging on this tree, I looked up and saw this birds nest, long since abandoned for a warmer climate.
“Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition.”
― Max Ernst
. . . and check out all these other contrasting affects:
Motorcycle Parking . . .
Photo Challenge: Family | pinay e-motion
Water is often is a state of juxtaposition . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition II | Hamburg und Mee(h)r
Here is a fun comparison . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition | Life a New Beginning
Juxtaposition often makes us laugh . . .
Weekly Photo Challenge – Juxtaposition; Bastet’s Pixelventures – Surprise | Travels and Trifles
Is the photographer really focused on the main event?
Juxtaposition – The Photographer | Sunday Views
Try to figure this one out before you read the text. Very moving . . .
Weekly photo challenge: Juxtaposition | fotojen10
I love the name of this blog. Wish I had thought of it first, but then my name isn’t Rae. I love the photo, and her words. Yes, I did click “follow” . . .
Who’s that kitty in the window? – Weekly Photo Challenge : Juxtaposition | Calamity Rae
“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow them.”
~~ Louisa May Alcott
This photo was taking looking “up” at the morning sky through the heavily laden branches of what we hope is the last snow of the season. The sun is such a welcome sight!
Other favorite interpretations you might enjoy:
Weekly Photo Challenge: Up #2 / Here & Abroad
Weekly Photo Challenge: Up (III) / Simplicity of Being
elPadawan ~ around Prague
Behind the Willows
Weekly Photo Challenge: Up – Up & Even Upper / The San Francisco Scene – – Seen!
Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches
Photo Challenge: Up the Poudre Canyon / Gleaning the Nuggets
The Little GSP (SuperDog!)
The World Through My Camera Lens
Weekly Photo Challenge: (Look) Up / The Neophyte Photographer
Weekly Photo Challenge: Looking Up in York / Janaline’s world journey
It’s a long story … (A quote I should well remember!)
Learning to See Light